IRVING, Texas -- It’s on to Week 2 of Five Wonders, and this week we hit on the Cowboys reaping early benefits from some young players:
** Since this has been an over-reaction week, let’s begin to wonder about Kevin Ogletree's future with the club. He will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. For the sake of discussion, let’s just say he'll have a season somewhere between Patrick Crayton and Laurent Robinson -- in the area of 40-45 catches, 600 yards and five touchdowns. What do the Cowboys do? What does Ogletree do? He saw Robinson leave for the big bucks in Jacksonville after one great season and it would be difficult to say no to that type of cash. As for the team, they spent four years waiting for the guy to develop and they’d let him walk for nothing? One thing they won’t have to worry about is the ability to re-sign him early if they wanted to. They weren’t able to do that last year with Robinson because of the rules involving the veteran minimum salary benefit contract.
** It’s only one game, but Bruce Carter has me wondering if I missed something in training camp. He was outstanding against the Giants in the opener in his 30 snaps. Dan Connor played only four snaps, so that tells you what the coaches thought of the inside linebacker battle over the summer. Carter was more aggressive in taking on blockers and did a good job in the run game. Sometimes when linebackers get the “athletic” tag, it means they’re run-around guys. Carter wasn’t that against the Giants. There’s still a long way to go, but the Cowboys’
patience with last year’s second-round pick could pay off in a big way this year.
** I wonder if Chris Jones can keep this up. He has punted 12 times in three games over the last two seasons, and the Cowboys have given up just six return yards. Six!!!!! He has had net averages of 43 yards, 38.8 yards and 51.5 yards against the Giants (twice) and Seattle. This week he sees the Seahawks again. Seattle returner Leon Washington is as dangerous as they come, and he had a 52-yard punt return vs. Arizona last week. Jones has done a great job of keeping the ball close to the sidelines in his three games, limiting any opportunity for a return to bust free. Washington is one of many tests of the schedule for the Cowboys’ coverage teams this year.
** This might surprise some people, but here comes praise for Wade Phillips: If a guy showed he could handle a role, Phillips would play him. It wasn’t some reward for being on the team, but a way to keep all 53 guys involved. I wonder if that philosophy is still going on with the Cowboys because the only active player not to play a snap vs. the Giants was backup quarterback Kyle Orton. Safety Mana Silva did a nice job in the “dollar” package in Danny McCray's absence.
Rookie defensive end Tyron Crawford saw second-half snaps. Rookie tight end James Hanna saw first-half snaps and caught a 10-yard pass. Cornerback Mario Butler saw some snaps, and not just when Orlando Scandrick needed an IV. Tackle Jermey Parnell lined up at tight end once in a jumbo package (and missed his fourth-down block). Teams can’t be afraid to use guys. The Cowboys weren’t vs. New York.
** I wonder (really I hope, but the title of this post is Five Wonders) if the NFL will adjust how it works the opening game of the season. The Cowboys were put in an unfair position of playing the last preseason game of Week 1 at Oakland, and therefore were joined by the Raiders as the last teams to report to camp. The Giants had three extra days of practice on the Cowboys. That’s an unfair advantage. The Cowboys could have started camp earlier with an exemption, but the NFLPA would not go along. Executive vice president Stephen Jones has said he'd like to see the reporting dates for training camp relate to the regular-season opener, not the preseason opener. It almost seems to make too much sense, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t just the reporting time that made it difficult to prepare. There were many issues involving waivers and claims and when they could get on the practice field. The Cowboys beat the Giants, which made some of the headaches disappear, but there’s no way the league should put teams in such a bind in the future.